If you hadn't been following college baseball this season and happened to take a cursory glance at the recently released NCAA Tourney field of 64, your first question would probably be some version of "what the hell happened to the West Coast?" Not a single one of the 16 regional host sites is West of Texas, a surprising development for one of the sport's most talent-saturated areas.
It's a credit to a 2016 selection committee that resisted the "regional diversity" agenda that frequently plagues NCAA bodies across all sports. So often we see teams selected not for the merit of its résumé, but because the committee has taken it upon itself to force geographic and/or conference parity. Not this season. No West Coast team did enough to earn a host bid, and none received it.
The committee laughs at your regional parity.
NCAA baseball regional sites. I'm jealous of the SE portion of the country for the first time. pic.twitter.com/nKSvObP3jT— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) May 30, 2016
Seven of the eight national seeds and 13 of the 16 host sites hail from the SEC and ACC, which were head and shoulders above the rest of the country all season. Florida's SEC Tourney run was enough to preserve them as the No. 1 seed, and we could see one hell of a Gainesville super if Florida State takes care of business in its regional. Another potential SEC-ACC super regional matchup could pit Louisville, the No. 2 national seed, against Vandy, which snuck in as an unprecedented seventh SEC host site. And how about the chance of Clemson hosting South Carolina in the second round? The Tigers, which came out of nowhere to grab a national seed after winning the ACC Tourney, took two of three in the regular season, so you know the Gamecocks are gunning for revenge.
Nothing illustrates the struggles of the West Coast better than Ole Miss' regional. Utah, which won the Pac-12 despite a 25-27 overall record, is a four seed in Oxford. The Pac doesn't have a conference tourney, mind you, so it's not like the Utes just got hot over the course of a week. The team with the best conference record in the mighty Pac-12 is a damn four seed, and deservedly so. Just incredible.
Not that there aren't dangerous teams in that conference. Keep an eye out for Arizona State, which landed in Fort Worth as a two seed. The Sun Devils had won six straight series before an ugly showing against USC last weekend and could test a TCU team that was wildly inconsistent before making a run through the Big 12 Tourney.
Not that the committee was perfect, by the way. North Carolina getting left out despite its top 20 RPI raises eyebrows. Georgia Tech earned a two seed despite finishing ninth in the ACC, which is particularly suspicious given that the school's AD is on the committee. There's also LSU getting a national seed over Ole Miss despite similar résumés and the Rebs' head-to-head win.
All things considered, however, this is pretty solid field put together by the committee.